Posted by: rcottrill | February 15, 2013

He Is Able to Deliver Thee

Words: William Augustine Ogden (b. Oct. 10, 1841; d. Oct. 14, 1897)
Music: William Augustine Ogden

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: William Ogden was a productive gospel song writer in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Sometimes he wrote the lyrics as well as the tune, as with this 1887 song. (Seeking the Lost, and I’ve a Message from the Lord, are examples too.) Other times, such as with Bring Them In, and The Bright Forevermore, he provided only the tune.

In 1937, in a Broadway musical called Babes in Arms, there was a show-stopping number called “Johnny One Note.” (“Johnny could only sing one note / And the note he sings was this.”) It told about “poor Johnny” who could only manage to sing a single note. But he bravely stepped forward and sang that one note with gusto, and became famous for it!

I thought of that as I considered this song. Not in connection with the tune, but about the words. Twenty-four lines (including the refrains), all proclaiming a single theme, that God is able to deliver us. But what a wonderful theme that is! It runs, like a scarlet thread, through the Bible from beginning to end.

CH-1) ’Tis the grandest theme through the ages rung;
’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue;
’Tis the grandest theme that the world e’er sung,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”

He is able to deliver thee,
He is able to deliver thee;
Though by sin oppressed, go to Him for rest;
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”

Various Hebrew and Greek words are translated “deliver” in our English Bibles. The basic and most common meaning is to rescue. It may be a rescue within the bounds of time, or a rescue that is eternal. It may be a rescue from present circumstances, or from the ruinous bondage of sin. But in all of these, the power of God to bring deliverance is brought before us.

One particular incident is actually recounted three separate times (in Second Kings, Second Chronicles, and Isaiah). It concerns the attempt of the Assyrian army to besiege and take the city of Jerusalem, during the reign of godly King Hezekiah. A spokesman for the Assyrians, standing outside the wall, ridiculed the king and mocked his God, saying that even God couldn’t protect the citizens of Jerusalem (II Kgs. 18:29-30). But Hezekiah went to prayer, and the Lord miraculously delivered His people from harm (II Kgs. 19:35-37).

Later, Daniel was taken as a slave to Babylon, and served in the royal court under a series of rulers. In the days of Darius the Persian, Daniel’s enemies plotted to get rid of him and he was subsequently cast into a pit containing of ravenous lions. The king mourned the loss of his faithful counselor, yet he had a little hope. “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you” (Dan. 6:16). Early the next morning, the king hastened to the pit and called out, “Has your God….been able to deliver you?” (vs. 20), and Daniel assured him that He had.

In an earlier incident, three Hebrew slaves were threatened with being thrown into a blazing furnace if they refused to bow before a golden idol. Their response was, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us” (Dan. 3:17).

But there’s a significant twist in this case. In the following verse the three say, “But if not…” Even if the Lord chose not to deliver them, they still would not bow before the image. Some have thought this showed a lack of faith on their part. But that’s not so. They were simply recognizing that they didn’t know the will of God in this situation. In every age there have been martyrs for the faith. Certainly the Lord was able, but was He going to rescue them now. (Yes, He was, vs. 23-27).

There’s a significant use of our word in Matthew when the Lord Jesus hung upon the cross. The Jewish leaders stood by, mocking Him. For them, the proof that He was who He claimed to be would be a show of miraculous power. “If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross….He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now” (Matt. 27:42-43).

Their total misunderstanding of the case is expressed in the words, “He saved others [perhaps referring to Christ’s miracles]; Himself He cannot save” (vs. 42). But the whole theme of the gospel of grace is that if Christ were to save others eternally He had to be willing to remain where He was. It was by His sacrifice that our debt of sin has been paid (I Cor. 15:3). He “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us” (Gal. 1:4). It’s the “grandest theme for a mortal tongue.”

“He [God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). “[Now we] wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (I Thess. 1:10).

1) What other themes in Scripture bear repeating over and over?

2) What is it about the gospel that makes it the greatest theme of all?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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